Glenmoor House Care Home, Corby
Partners: Made in Corby, Avery Care, Museum Development East Midlands
Lead Writer: Owen (John) Berkavitch
Shadow Writer: Bea Udeh
Museum Visit: Kelmarsh Hall & Gardens
Sessions took place between August and November 2019
Participants worked towards a sound piece, poems were recorded by professional actors and poets and set to music.
Bea Udeh says:
We enjoyed working together on the Elder Tree Project. Owen felt that we worked together as partners rather than Shadow and Lead, and I felt that the process enabled me to observe a master become flexible with how a creative/poetry session could occur.
The debrief of the morning session and the rough planning of the next session took place during shared car journeys. This was a necessary part of the process due to the cognitive dissonance being experienced by us both, seeing elders in different states of neurological conditions, compared to how one sees other elders, even close friends and family, who are may not going through this. Paradoxically, coming to terms with the knowledge that the physical and neurological depreciation that comes with age is an uncertain reality was always a soft debate and discussion we pursued.
We visited Kelmarsh Hall and Garden in the fifth week of this ten-week. Four elders, and three care workers came along and they all seemed to have strong reactions, and expressed pure happiness during the trip. Many photos were taken on the Care Home’s Ipad.
“How did you arrange this?” asked Helen the care home staff member. The staff had previously spoken about wanting to arrange a trip like this and it was clear that although they have the minibus, and they could coordinate trips like this all the time, they do not have the capacity to progress this as part of a day-to-day workload. The carers were incredibly grateful for this opportunity.
The week after the visit, one of the elders, Lillian, who has kept a diary for years, was clearly so moved by the visit that she exclaimed, “It was the best day that I have ever had since being in the home.” Alec seemed to recognise Owen upon arrival to the session. He pointed to elements in the photographs that he remembered. Alec struggles to articulate his thoughts due to a stroke he had, but he spoke about being a farmer and some of his early life.
The final product, a short audio recording of the conversations that artists had had over the time of the project, was layered with music that the Elders had reminisced or mentioned. It was clear after the first two to three sessions that to produce an outcome that would be presented in written form would have been disingenuous to the Elders involved: would the Elders read it later if they’re memories were not at capacity; would they relate to what they had actually written or said during the session conversations; also who was going to read it (elder, care worker, child of elder, funding agencies)? We decided that an audio recording would better express the types of fragmented or scrappy, but considered conversations, ‘workshop’ experiences and stories of the Glenmoor House Care Home residents.
I believe that the Elder Tree Project has challenged us as artists to think about human beings, these elders, in a layered way.